Paul Kerrigan doesn’t envisage this year’s Allianz Leagues being completed despite Cork’s footballers being agonisingly close to promotion.
With five wins from five, Ronan McCarthy’s side were all but up and out of Division 3, likely needing just one more point from their two remaining games against already-relegated Louth at home and away to Longford to return to Division 2 one season after going down.
Ascension would also ensure they avoid the newly-established Tailteann Cup but that secondary championship could also fall by the wayside because of the extended coronavirus precautionary period.
There have been suggestions the outstanding league games could be used as warm-up fixtures for the forthcoming Championship. A decision in relation to the Allianz Leagues is expected later this week. However, Kerrigan can’t see where the GAA will find the time for the matches.
“It is the first year the league is going to affect the Championship so it’s going to be interesting to see what they do. They might go back to last year’s style or a complete knockout but I couldn’t see them finishing the league.
“We haven’t heard anything yet. We’re doing our programmes at the moment but we were literally one weekend, one point, away from sealing qualification. I was hoping we would get that weekend out of the way but what can you do?
“It’s not like the Premier League because so much matters in every division and they’re going to have to think about it.”
Cork couldn’t have done more across the spring and the Nemo Rangers man reports there was a deep sense as a panel that they had made considerable progress.
“We used 30-odd players and if there is still a Championship the work won’t be undone, like. We were in a good place and winning games in a row, which we hadn’t done in a while. We were starting to turn the corner as a group and the work ethic was very good.”
The idea of a Cork-Kerry Munster semi-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh becoming a knockout game would be “a bit of a throwback”, Kerrigan says, but he wonders how fair one game would be on players.
“In one way, some people would love to see a knockout Championship but as a player you wouldn’t because you want as many games as possible.”
Like everyone else, Kerrigan is training alone but it is tough.
“You’re doing your runs and everybody is accountable. You have to put in what you’re doing. The running joke is no matter how much we’re running right now the first game we go back all of us are going to be bolloxed. It’s just not the same.
“The interaction would be one of the main things I miss. Our WhatsApp group has been flat out now for the bones of two weeks, it’s flat out. It’s going to be like this for a while.”
Meanwhile, Clare manager Colm Collins believes the GAA should hold off on making a decision on the leagues until the end of next month.
“I would give it a month,” he said. “I always felt nothing was going to happen until after Easter. They should give it until the end of April before making a call on the league, but that’s going to be a call for the GAA to make. I wouldn’t rush into it. I would see how it goes and if we can get a handle on it good, but if not there are going to be a lot of things changing.”
Collins wholeheartedly supports the idea of an open knockout format for the All-Ireland series and scratching the provincial Championships for a season.
“A straight knockout championship would be fantastic. The 32 teams into a hat and off you go. All the top teams would have to train for a first round the same as they if were training for an All-Ireland semi-final, because they could possibly draw each other in that first round.
“It would be the ultimate in a fair Championship. Maybe it is something that could happen and would be seriously looked at. I would be very much in favour of it and maybe something good could come out of the situation we’re in.
“If it happens you would have great crowds, because you would have novel pairings. You’d have pairings that you never had in Championship before and then there would be the added ingredient that you would have to get a result. There would be no safety net — it would be good luck and goodbye if you were beaten.
“The facts are there would be a limited amount of time and it would probably end up where it would be played week after week, bang bang. It would be something new and something novel and wouldn’t it be great to see if the sky falls in if we did something like that — I don’t think it will.
“That’s if it goes ahead. The important thing for the moment is that everyone continues to take this thing seriously and until we see some sort of progress and some sort of reduction in figures.”